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Face Recognition + Mandatory Police Body Cameras = Mass Surveillance? (siliconvalley.com) 110

Facial recognition software is already in use, and it has privacy advocates worried. An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup. Southern California-based FaceFirst sells its facial recognition technology to retail stores, which use it to identify shoplifters who have been banned from the store, and alert management if they return. Corporate offices and banks also use the software to recognize people who are wanted by police... Several local law enforcement agencies have expressed interest in the technology, but so far none have had the budget for it. FaceFirst sells software police officers can install on their smartphones and use to identify people in the field from up to 12 feet away.

Some privacy experts worry facial recognition technology will show up next in police body cameras, with potentially dangerous consequences... The problem, say privacy advocates, is that all kinds of people come into contact with police, including many who are never suspected of any crimes. So lots of innocent people could be caught up in a police database fed by face-recognizing body cameras. The body cameras could turn into a "massive mobile surveillance network," said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

One-third of America's police departments use body cameras. (And just in San Jose, there's already 450 neighborhood cameras that have also agreed to share their footage for police investigations.) The new technologies concern the ACLU's policy director for technology and civil liberties. "You have very powerful systems being purchased, most often in secret, with little-to-no public debate and no process in place to make sure that there are policies in place to safeguard community members."
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Face Recognition + Mandatory Police Body Cameras = Mass Surveillance?

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  • by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @08:50PM (#53853241) Journal

    We already have mass surveillance in private hands. Ever been to a casino? Do you know what kind of tech they use?

    The real question is how we keep police accountable to the public, not how to make sure the police are kept away from every new technology.

    • If they start trying to video tape through my windows, I'm going to have an issue with it. In public, I typically try not to do anything I wouldn't do in public.

      • In public, I typically try not to do anything I wouldn't do in public.

        That is NOT the issue. Right now, this tech is being justified by using it to keep bad people from behaving badly. But once it is deployed, it may also be used to track who is going to a political rally or protest, or who is visiting a dissident.

        Don't be complacent just because we have a benevolent government that serves the interests of all citizens. In the future things may change, and it is even possible that we could be ruled by a narcissistic plutocrat that tries to divide the people and is intolera

        • I'm pretty sure news cameras already do a pretty good job on this topic. Most people at protests seems to want to get their face on camera as much as possible.

        • I respectfully disagree.

          I want body cameras to fix the right-now-today-real-world-conjoined-twin problems of police brutality and illegitimate complaints against police. I'm willing to address the small risk of mass surveillance separately from this.

          I understand fully:"Those who sacrifice freedom for security receive neither." I do not see widespread decentralized use of bodycams as a threat to the former. That can be controlled trivially with judicial oversight.

          That leaves a question of extrajudicial ac

          • The main problems with public surveillance are data mining and data retention. Having a camera that someone is watching isn't that much worse than having someone watching, but when you can keep all of that footage indefinitely and when you can start running correlations between recordings from different cameras then you start to have something qualitatively different. It's not feasible to have police officers follow everyone around and record exactly where they go and who they talk to, but if you can proc
        • it may also be used to track who is going to a political rally or protest, or who is visiting a dissident.

          This would've been a valid concern, if being a "dissident" were in any way dangerous in our country. And it is not.

          Certainly not lately — on the contrary, supporting the elected President or the majority-holding Party is what can get you beaten up [thegatewaypundit.com] or reported to your employer [nypost.com] (and subsequently fired).

          Dissidents in the US denounce the sitting President to the ovations from audiences [nytimes.com], fearing not

    • Even more, we all carry phones with us that track our every move. But people don't seem to care about that. Of course, you can say you just don't carry a phone with you, but if every one else on the picture has a phone and you don't then you can be tracked quite easily.

    • You can choose to not go into a casino.
      Yes, it's important to keep police accountable, but there's another side police video that people are unaware of.
      At this time in processing and storage technology, body cams do not have real time processing ability, they are simply recording devices.
      The difficulty is comes in disclosure or "sun shine " laws that requires public records to be released . There are exemptions to what can be released, information on minors, hipaa, personal info, pending litigation
    • Just about every restaurant and retail business has security cameras. I help run a strip mall and we've got security cameras all around the outside and along the sidewalks (on top of the cameras the tenants have inside their businesses).

      Have people already forgotten the Boston marathon bombing? The FBI tracked down the responsible brothers almost exclusively through use of private security camera and cell phone footage [youtu.be]. You already have no privacy when you are out in public. It's just that 99.99% of
  • Potential means you haven't done anything, yet.
  • What could possibly go wrong? Imagine the convenience for your local police officers!

    I've always wondered what they are listening to in their little earphones, but with this technology incorporated into their body cameras, it's going to be like this:

    "Suspect 1: Man in red hat, 30 yards away at heading 25 degrees. 12 actionable offenses, probability 65% of jail time. Suspect 2: Woman in brown skirt, 55 yards away at heading 350 degrees. 4 actionable offenses, but she'll probably offer sexual favors for relea

    • Actually, you'll have the ability to look up their record and note whether additional attention is warranted.

    • So true, I live near an intersection that gets a fair number of red light runners. It is also a major speed trap. The other day as I am about to go after the light turning green, I spot a guy definitely not stopping and it is way past pink. Guy goes thru, I proceed. As I am headed up the road I immediately see a motorcycle cop with a radar gun, who had to see the guy run the red. But he did not pursue. He was holding the gun waiting for the next speeder. I'm thinking somehow the speeding tickets are more pr

      • Just FYI, the officer may need to be in a position where they can see the light turn red so they can testify the person definitely ran the red light. The person running the red may literally honestly believe it was green by the time trial arrives or there could be some mechanical fluke or these days even hackers messing with the light.

        I was on a jury for a red light case and the map showed us the officer set up to where he could see the light and the people running the light.

        I have seen some horrific red l

    • What could possibly go wrong? Imagine the convenience for your local police officers!

      Several things could quite possibly go wrong, and will go wrong, occasionally. But does it make lots of sense to artificially keep the police and other official powers in the stone ages, technologically, when everybody else - including criminals - are going to use the latest technology? It seems to me that the right way is to recognise the potential problems and then work out solutions to them. Privacy concerns are valid, but so are the concerns that unless the police keep up with technology, they will beco

    • by shanen ( 462549 )

      Judging by the replies, the effort of drafting that comment was clearly wasted, especially the effort of carefully balancing my examples. I wonder if it would have helped to include "You, yourself, are Suspect 4"?

      However, right now I am in the process of putting my Slashdot affairs in order for another hiatus, perhaps permanent, so this is basically a boilerplate response drafted for the pending replies. (It's just that none of the replies pending on this comment seem to merit as much as the boilerplate.)

  • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @09:06PM (#53853307) Homepage Journal
    The problem is not using such technology but relying on such technology. Too often it is believed above common sense. We have DNA databases that have now outgrown the probability of a match so if you enter data you get more than one match. If facial recognition says that a person is a suspect that does not mean that the person is a suspect and does not mean that there is a reason to arrest or detain said person. It does justify watching said person but not harming them in any way including harming them by detaining them.
    • I support police body cameras. They prove who did what when the bullets fly, keep the police honest, and people behave better when they know they are on camera. Also you know when you are on camera by looking around for cops, not like having them hidden in the background live-streeming your life. But nobody gets to watch the vid without a judicial warrant.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by BlueStrat ( 756137 )

        They prove who did what when the bullets fly, keep the police honest,...

        Funny how, quite often, there's a sudden mass failure of police body cams and audio recording when there's a situation where the cops may look like criminals. Or, there's suddenly a 'computer problem' that loses all the video/audio and gee, backups? What are those? Sorry, we either A: didn't have the budget to implement backups, give us more money, or B: surprise, there was a sudden system failure that lost just that particular stored evidence but strangely didn't lose any other data on the same server/HDD.

  • by alispguru ( 72689 ) <bane&gst,com> on Sunday February 12, 2017 @09:06PM (#53853311) Journal

    Body cameras should encrypt their contents as they capture them.

    Records at the station house should be dumps of the encrypted data.

    The keys should be stored elsewhere, available by subpoena or warrant.

    In addition to making body cam data useless for mass surveillance, wearers can be required to have the camera running all the time - nobody gets to see officers in the bathroom unless they are accused of beating someone up there.

    • by MatthiasF ( 1853064 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @10:45PM (#53853601)
      I have argued this in the distant past and am glad it is getting attention, but we all need to worry about long-term recorded surveillance and the growing developments in machine learning. In the past, the majority of surveillance was recorded short-term and often examined in real-time for human operators to watch over larger areas easily. But we have quickly come to the point where long-term recording is getting cheap enough for indefinite storage. This might seem like a bad thing in itself but made even worse with the fact machine learning also improving to the point where processing hours of the recordings is easily possible with automated software.

      This combination means that anyone could in theory be charged with a "recorded crime", meaning that law enforcement did not notice your crime in real-time and no one filed a crime against you but later follow up systems/software found the infraction. At first these systems will probably only be used to help existing investigations but no doubt it will be used later in much the same way as red-light and speeding cameras trying to generate revenue for municipalities.

      Should this be allowed in our society? Where do we draw the line?

      Secondly, the integrity of the recordings should be paramount. Your idea for encryption is a good one, perhaps expanding it to breaking down the recordings on a 10-15 minute basis with an individual key and checksum for each.

      I mention a checksum because we are already at the point where computer generated imagery (CGI) has photo-realism and it could be possible for someone to easily plant images into these streams, allowing the changing of faces, clothing, etc. Body cam footage need to be handled as a chain of evidence and their recordings must be kept secure while also well documented against manipulation.

      Law makers need to address this issue now, otherwise this will create a kind of police state that even makes the world of 1984 look like utopia.
      • by dargaud ( 518470 )
        Checksum every minute (?) of footage and feed the checksums in real-time (or later offline if no connection at the time) to a public blockchain used only for that purpose. Then archive the footage.
        • Or frame by frame check-sums encrypted into the video feed in real-time when recorded. I know it takes more processing power in the body camera but it needs to happen.
          • by dargaud ( 518470 )
            But then if the footage 'disappears', so does the checksum. While with an online realtime blockchain you at least know that the footage did exist at one time, even if a truck rolled over the camera...
            • Ah, I see what you mean but the blockchain would have to be shared in real-time, right? So the body cameras would need to be network connected.

              Which in my opinion should be necessary anyway, but might be considered a "cost concern" for police departments.
      • There is also a difference in the way you interpret the data.

        Redlight and speedcams work very precisely because each vehicle has a license plate, matching an entry into a vehicle database.
        Either you have a matching number, that should match an exact vehicle (or a counterfeit license plate), or you don't.
        Identity is binary.
        Also the devices are usually calibrated to guarantee precise results regarding measurement.
        in other words, you can at least reliable trust the information (platenumber ; speed) coming out

  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @09:09PM (#53853319)
    Police need to have bodycams to protect us!
    If the police have bodycams who will protect us!
    Everyone should be watched and not watched at all times and simultaneously. Like there has to be an unbroken universal superposition both of surveillance everywhere and nowhere, just in case someone might do something bad with either. Instead of pointing to something and yelling "problem!" and expecting others to solve it, solutions could be presented instead.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They wanted police to have cameras.
      Now that they do, the videos show things they don't want to see.
      Like the guy the police shot did in fact have a gun.

      Quick get rid of them! The truth doesn't fit our narrative.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You have never seen even a single person take that position.
        • by phayes ( 202222 )

          I have read many people stating that the Police can only be trusted when there is corroborating evidence by cellphone cams or by body cams.

          • by Anonymous Coward
            It is sadly an all too common scenario. I have watched as a mother screamed at police accusing them of victimising and haressing her innocent son as she was there when the supposed incident happened and he never did nothing. This was followed by a neighbour to the incident offering the surveillance camera footage where that showed he assaulted the guy whereupon her story changed to how their rights of privacy had been invaded and she wants the person with the video cameras arrested as how dare they record h
    • But it is a problem in this case. Both bad cops as well as "activists" lie their asses off in the absence of conclusive video, and in today's ultra polarized society, we end up with things like institutionalized police brutality and the Ferguson riots when that happens. We now have cameras because some bad actors on both sides of the equation can't act like decent human beings. I'm not claiming that cameras are the end-all solution, but sadly, they're becoming more and more necessary to protect both good
  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @09:17PM (#53853345)

    Face recognition isn't reliable enough for mass surveillance; that is, unless you have context or additional information, you'll get thousands of false hits for every face you try to look up in a national database even under the best of circumstances. With people actively trying to fool the system and the kind of poor quality you get from wearable cameras, it's even worse.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      I can see a rise in popularity for "dazzle camoflage" makeup and hairstyles, and t-shirts with big pictures of famous people. A picture of Trump/famous-person-of-your-choice on your t-shirt is going to make life difficult for facial recognition systems.

      Mind you, being identified as Trump is somewhat belittling.....

      Perhaps use a dead celebrity on the front, and a live one on the back.

      • A picture of Trump/famous-person-of-your-choice on your t-shirt is going to make life difficult for facial recognition systems.

        No, not at all. Facial recognition systems are perfectly capable of distinguishing heads-on-T-shirts from actual heads, to perform liveness detection, and to distinguish flat heads from 3D heads.

        Mind you, being identified as Trump is somewhat belittling.....

        Are you kidding? I'd be happy if I look like that and have that level of energy and success at age 70. Anyway, how is that rele

  • Oh, noes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday February 12, 2017 @09:20PM (#53853357) Homepage Journal
    Frankly, I'd rather have police accountability than privacy from having people see my face while I'm in public.
    • Frankly, I'd rather have police accountability than privacy from having people see my face while I'm in public.

      You realize that this is not an either/or choice right? We can give police body cameras & get the associated enhanced accountability and put safeguards in to prevent it turning to ubiquitous surveillance,

      'Oh noes', like people are being irrational suggesting we limit ubiquitous surveillance.

      • Frankly, I'd rather have police accountability than privacy from having people see my face while I'm in public.

        You realize that this is not an either/or choice right? We can give police body cameras & get the associated enhanced accountability and put safeguards in to prevent it turning to ubiquitous surveillance,

        What effective safeguards can you propose that allow us to have full police accountability through body cameras, but don't let the police look at the faces in the videos? Doesn't blocking that impair the effectiveness of the accountability?

    • Frankly, I'd rather have police accountability than privacy from having people see my face while I'm in public.

      In general I agree with you. However, in the past, I've lived in some very not nice areas. I had the police come to my door several times a year asking if I had witnessed something, or investigating vandals that did similar things to my property as others, or stole the center caps out of the rims on one of my vehicles, etc. Usually I'd invite the officer in to discuss it. It's likely that I'm not the only person this has happened with. I think I'd have been less inclined to allow them in my home had they ha

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @09:22PM (#53853367) Journal

    ... with the introduction of smartphones with a camera or 3.

    The thing is, this is unstoppable. So we might as well look at the advantages instead of running around like headless chickens all the time. Officers need these to prevent violence towards the officers AND the public to avoid unnecessary police brutality, now everyone IS accountable for their actions, I can't see this as a bad thing.

    It's also highly unlikely that all video data will be stored for eternity because EVEN though we do have massive storage capacities, just imagine 7 million cameras with gigabyte storage all having to be centralized in some giant network, it would still take ages for any data processing to go trough that with image recognition, and there will probably be enough errors to keep an army of workers busy going through all of that.

    And an extra little thing... ...the gov. constantly WANT to add survellance powers but TAKE away our retaliation powers (counter survellance, or private survellance) as we need to trust the powers that be 100%, I for once - never did, and history repeats itself over and over again with officers breaking the law by browsing gov. citizens data bank for personal use and not professional use, this is because they're ALSO human - as corrupt and curious as the rest of us.

    The only thing you can rest assure of, there are those in the public who also have survellance capabilities, heck...I had this back in the 80s and kept a close eye on those I wanted to keep a close eye on, including the law enforcers - and they were as clueless then as they are today. If you want to stay out of trouble - stay OFF the radar, because they already have ALL the dirt on anyone of you, they just don't know you exist - yet!

  • have upgraded most of the US CCTV over the years to help with months of storage, resolution and software. A private security just walks out and uses their smart phone if the person of interest is just out of range.
    Face, gait can all be sorted in a local database.
    Thats one way to get around gift card tracking many months later. People still think CCTV is been lost days or weeks later as storage is still expensive.
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Sunday February 12, 2017 @10:17PM (#53853535) Homepage

    How much an administration can change things:

    2013: Although we at the ACLU generally take a dim view of the proliferation of surveillance cameras in American life, police on-body cameras are different because of their potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers.

    2017: You have very powerful systems being purchased, most often in secret, with little-to-no public debate and no process in place to make sure that there are policies in place to safeguard community members

    They pretty much wrote the white paper on police camera's which had very weak provisions for privacy because of purported unnecessary violence against members of grassroots terrorist organizations and violent criminal gangs, now you're asking why these things are purchased - because you asked for it, it's no secret that police are recording you, we techies told you that when they started with red light camera's and CCTV and cheap tech is only going to make it easier.

    It's impossible to fight it at this point, you should've fought it when they started recording in their cars and on street corners. Now you can only 'defend' yourself because the tech itself is too cheap and available to stop the tide. Even if you wanted to, cops would just go out and buy a GoPro just like they do with guns and everything else they don't want to be too official.

  • Mandatory Police Body Cameras = Lots of Selfies

    Mandatory Police Body Cameras + Government only = Mass Surveillance

    Mandatory Police Body Cameras + Full Public Access = Public Display

    The Mandatory Police Body Cameras were implemented to avoid polices from shooting random black people and getting away with it. A lot of innocent people were killed with no justice with cops overpowering them in court, while other times police have a hard time presenting their judgement on the situation.

    Case in point, it was to p

  • Ya know, where the cops cruise a grocery store, grabbing all the license plate numbers. Meanwhile, another cop is on the freeway, grabbing license place number. While the third cop is doing his rounds, grabbing license plate numbers.

    This shit has to end or we as a society are totally fucked. Forget what Trump might do, look at what these paper cuts, taken together,, might do.
  • Problem solved.
  • Holy crap man, do you know how little time police are actually out wandering around mingling with the public?

    Compare that to 24x7 traffic cams, mounted on nearly every stoplight. Compare that to cameras outside every store and most homes now, all of which the police have legal access to footage from if they ask. Or forget about facial recognition, why would that even matter when you have all of your friends taking pictures everywhere you are with them and tagging you in images?

    Where the hell have you been?

  • Police cars often have devices that auto record all license plates near the squad cars and run checks on them. It is a great way to find stolen cars and motorcycles. Naturally such systems can be attached to buildings or poles or whatever and in a way they do have a record of where your car has been. I do not see it as a privacy issue. If I am in public view anyone has the right to snap a picture of me. Are we at the point of saying that police must have less rights than all other members of the p
  • i'm just going to go on a limb here and say we're passed Orwellian society at this point, various things mimick the comedic writing of 1984- while others are far different. Police body cams are something that shouldn't be in question, of course bodycam all the things (EMTs and firefighters as well). Give the heroes wings and burn the witches(, or something therein more logically described). facial recognition as part of the bodycam is an interesting concept. Provided the recognition works as well as it
  • First everyone wants body cams.
    Now everyone is complaining about it.
    I knew this would happen. Can never please these people.

    Besides, Body cams are typically only turned on during contact.
    There is just to much video to store and sort thru.
    We had to setup taser body cams and https://evidence.com/ [evidence.com]
    They dock on a rack and upload the data when docked.

  • Interesting to see that criminals are protesting a measure at its highest effectiveness.

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